Blackjack card counting is a frequent topic in the gaming world. It’s one of the few ways to beat the house and win serious gambling profits.
But what happens to card counters when they drop out of the game? Michael Board, a former blackjack pro, recently gave detailed insight into the matter.
Once a very successful blackjack player, Board has taught others how to beat the casino too, including high rollers in Hong Kong. You can find out more on Board’s lucrative blackjack coaching gig below along with his interesting backstory.
Who Is Michael Board?
Board didn’t grow up playing cards and hanging out in smoky casinos in his youth. Instead, he mostly concentrated on distance running.
He spent summers with his uncle, who was a marathoner. Board honed his running abilities early on with his uncle and eventually started competing.
Upon graduating high school, the Indiana native joined the North Central College (Illinois) distance team. He won a couple of national championships during this and was invited to join US distance-running team.
Around this time period, some competitive runners began using erythropoietin (EPO) to boost their red blood cell count. Board didn’t do drugs, so he stopped running in the early 2000s.
With his running career over, Michael struggled to figure out his next move. Eventually, his path would lead him to blackjack.
Why Did Board Get Into Blackjack?
Board had never been much of a gambler throughout his early life. However, this changed when a friend suggested that they try to beat blackjack.
As Michael told the South China Morning Post (SCMP), he and his friend bought 20 books on blackjack strategy. The resources back then weren’t quite as comprehensive as what’s available today.
Nevertheless, the pair figured out how to count cards within a couple of months. His friend started as a solo counter and quickly turned his meager bankroll into a significant amount.
Board and his buddy started playing together from this point on. They eventually went on a hot run and earned a fortune.
“For a year, my buddy and I were on a really good streak, playing eight to 10 hours a day,” he said. “We only played when we knew we had a mathematical advantage.”
The key to Board’s success wasn’t just expert counting. He and his friend were also very cautious about not getting caught, too.
“We never stayed in the casinos where we played,” Board explained. “We would stay at Caesars (Palace) and play everywhere else. We would have a friend get a room and pay and we’d stay there, so our names weren’t on anything.”
The most impressive aspect of Board’s blackjack run is where he ended versus his starting point. He and his friend increased their bankroll by 400x, starting with a few grand and ending up with around $800,000.
Why Did Board Stop Playing Blackjack Professionally?
If you’ve ever seen the movie 21, you realize that the MIT Blackjack Team didn’t quit because they got tired or bored. They stopped because they were being thrown out of casinos left and right.
Board had a similar experience. Everything was going great for him and his buddy, until the next moment, they were suddenly being kicked out of their favorite Vegas hotspots.
This bizarre chain of events only got worse, as Board’s team kept getting booted everywhere they stopped.
At the time, Griffin Investigations was doing private-eye work for casinos. They identified the MIT Blackjack team through Harvard and MIT yearbook photos.
Griffin Investigations (now defunct) also got to Board and many other card counters during this period. Almost every casino in the world had their names and photographs.
Board and his buddy initially thought that they’d be okay to play at international destinations. However, they were wrong on this account. When they played in Macau, Singapore, and Europe, they were met with refusal. Facial recognition helped them get recognized and they were thrown out immediately. It was clear that Board and his buddy wouldn’t be welcome anywhere for much longer.
“I got thrown out of the Wynn Macau,” Board said. “I don’t think it’s gambling when they can pick and choose who they let play.”
Hong Kong High Rollers Hire Board as a Blackjack Teacher
Board and his friend finally decided to give up on blackjack after getting blacklisted at too many casinos. His buddy took up poker while he went on a different path.
Board contacted casinos about an interesting proposition. They could hire him to teach their staff members about what to look for in card counters.
He had plenty of success with his new gig, which he started by teaching staff members at various Florida casinos. They’d not only pay him to give their dealers advice, but also let him keep whatever he made from counting.
Eventually, Michael made a full-time living by sharing his knowledge in casinos around the globe. He even met his wife during a consulting gig at a Spanish casino. But he grew disenchanted with this line of work after two years and decided to get out.
“I didn’t like what the casinos did to me and a lot of people,” he said. “It’s not gambling when they say only losers can play and if you beat us, we’ll kick you out.”
Board tried going back to the players’ side by teaching small gamblers how to count cards. However, this avenue didn’t provide nearly enough money.
One job that did pay well, though, included teaching high rollers how to count. Random executives began calling Board in hopes that he would serve as their coach.
Michael found such gigs to be both easy and lucrative. Some of his students bet $20,000 per hand and were willing to pay handsomely for a good teacher.
While speaking of the high rollers he taught, Board also offered some general advice to aspiring card counters. Board believes that, in order to succeed, you must remove your emotions when it comes dealing with money.
Discipline is absolutely essential when you’re a card counter. And every decision must be made with logic and rational thinking at the forefront.
What Is Michael Board Doing Today?
After playing and teaching real money blackjack for well over a decade, Michael got tired of the grind. His profession also clashed with his half-Indian wife’s culture.
At North Central College, he’d earned a degree in finance. So, he chose to go back to school and get his Master’s degree in finance.
He started out working for Credit Suisse. His job description included handling investments (e.g. derivatives, equities) for large families.
These days, Board manages money for a major Wall Street firm. He feels that this gig really suits his skills, because he’s learned plenty of risk assessment through blackjack.
Michael would prefer to continue teaching high rollers. However, he’s also happy to hold down a good day job.
“My family are happy that I’ve got a finance job and put on a shirt and tie, but this is much more fun,” he said.
“I wish I could do it every day but the pool of people that are capable of betting that way is small – I’ll get a random call from somebody in Hong Kong or Singapore.”
Thousands of people have counted cards professionally over the years. However, few find continued success in the game once their playing careers are over.
Michael Board is one of the rare exceptions. He’s spilled card counting secrets to corporate casinos, taught Hong Kong whales, and helped average gamblers.
Board had an odd journey toward becoming a blackjack authority. He started out as a promising distance runner who nearly broke four minutes in the mile.
After deciding that he wouldn’t take EPO to reach the next level, Michael was stuck in career limbo. He found his calling, though, when a friend suggested that they count cards together.
The pair proceeded to run a couple thousand dollars up to $800,000. They were too successful for their own good, though, and were kicked out of casinos across the globe.
Griffin Investigations tabbed them as counters and plastered their faces across casino databases all over the world.
With his playing days finished, Board began teaching casinos how to catch card counters. He eventually felt wrong about this line of work and began instructing small gamblers.
However, the latter didn’t pay very well. Michael found far more success in teaching the whale clients that called him. Even today, Board continues attracting high-roller students. He also maintains a well-paying job in the finance industry.